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BC  

We do indeed have to turn our clocks back an hour this weekend

Another year to 'fall back'

There will be a time when B.C. goes to permanent daylight savings time.

But, that time is not now.

Most British Columbians, except for those in Creston and portions of the Peace River Regional District, will turn their clocks back one hour at 2 a.m. Sunday.

There was hope the practice of moving clocks ahead in the spring and back again in the fall would end in 2019 after the province passed legislation laying out its plans to do so along with jurisdictions in the Western United States.

Both Washington and Oregon states have also approved year-round Pacific Time, while it's being considered in California.

The holdup is in Washington DC, where the federal government has yet to give its blessing.

A month ago, Premier John Horgan admitted the COVID-19 pandemic has dropped the matter lower down on the priority list in both Canada and the U.S.

"I think it's quite clear that, in the middle of a pandemic, making changes to daylight savings is not an urgent issue on people's minds," he said.

More than 93 per cent of British Columbians agreed with ending time change in a survey conducted by the province last year.





Watch drone footage of Vancouver police clearing Oppenheimer Park in 2019

Drone view of park clearing

The Vancouver Police Department has released drone footage of officers descending on the Oppenheimer Park tent city last winter after receiving a report of a man being shot in the now-dismantled encampment.

An 18-minute video recorded by the department’s “Skyranger” drone flying at 150 feet above the park on Dec. 12, 2019 captures patrol officers and members of the emergency response team going tent to tent as rats scurry across the park.

The footage was captured at night but the drone’s infrared technology lights up the officers, including one with a dog, as they move throughout the park. At the time, police said a man was shot in the knee and taken to hospital.

No arrests are noticeable in the footage, which was first released Oct. 20 to CBC under a Freedom of Information and Privacy Act request for any thermal imaging material captured by a drone or other means at Oppenheimer between January 2018 and June 2020.

The footage from Dec. 12, 2019 is now posted on the VPD’s website, as are emails between officers that shed more light on the drone’s use that night, including a comment from the drone’s operator, Const. Thomas Callaghan, about “hundreds of rats moving around.”

Supt. Steve Eely responded in a briefing note on the incident, saying: “Nice job all around: dealing with an active shooting, locating a suspect, clearing for additional victims, addressing advocate concerns; and using the drone to maintain officer safety. Not sure if the clearing had already occurred when the [forward-looking infrared camera] was taken, but…interesting how many tents appear unoccupied…and then there’s the rodents…lots of heat signatures. Well done!”

The drone was deployed four months after the Vancouver Police Board approved the use of the camera-carrying flying machines in September 2019. The department said it purchased three drones to be used for a number of scenarios including searching for missing persons, mapping crime scenes and responding to disasters.

The VPD also bought three smaller drones for training purposes.

The board’s approval of the drones included a policy that governs officers’ use of the machines: they are not to be used for random surveillance, and footage that has no “evidentiary value” is to be destroyed after 30 days, whereas footage with “evidentiary value” will be retained for at least one year.

Const. Tania Visintin, a VPD media relations officer, told Glacier Media Thursday that the drone deployed in Oppenheimer Park was in accordance with the policy, noting the shooting presented “significant public and officer safety concerns.”

“What I can tell you, generally speaking, is that when exigent circumstances exist that present a threat to human life, police are able to search property to deal with that threat,” Visintin said. “This applies to actual buildings [condos, houses, etc.], as well. A critical incident like an active shooting event in a public place, with one confirmed victim, an unknown suspect, and unknown number of victims, presents exigent circumstances that would allow police to act to prevent further harm.”

A VPD report that went before the board said the department consulted with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association in developing its drone policy, and that “where possible, the [association’s] recommendations have been incorporated in the development of [the drone] policy.”

Meghan McDermott, a staff lawyer and acting policy director for the association, said the measure police took to use the drone in response to the shooting appears intrusive on people living in the tents.

But McDermott said she wants more details about the shooting and whether it happened in a tent, or somewhere else in the park to better understand the rationale police provided for the drone’s deployment.

“They could have maybe met their objective without the use of that drone,” she said Thursday. “The disconcerting thing for us is the privacy violations of the people living at that park. The gross thing on that video is how they’re going into everybody’s tents.”

McDermott recommended the department create a section on its website that is regularly updated each time a drone is deployed — and for what purpose — as is already done for the use of Tasers. (The video of Oppenheimer Park is posted in the FOI section of the VPD’s website, and was only released because of the CBC’s request).

“There is no legal requirement for them to do that, but just for public trust I think it’s a wonderful idea for transparency,” she said. “It would be a minimal effort for the police and it would have a big pay-off in terms of public trust.”

When the board approved the use of the cameras last year, a report said the total budget for the drone program, which includes purchase of six drones, training, Transport Canada certification and fleet insurance totalled $141,000.

The report said $100,000 of that cost was covered by a grant from the Vancouver Police Foundation.

The Oppenheimer Park encampment was cleared in April and May after the B.C. government issued a public safety order out of concerns over COVID-19 transmission to clear the camp and move people into housing, including downtown hotels.

A second large homeless encampment has since been set up in Strathcona Park.



Strathcona Park tent city: nightmare, or refuge?

Nightmare or refuge?

One evening this August, Peter Portuondo was stabbed in the arm when he attempted to block a man who was not welcome at the Strathcona Park  tent city in Vancouver’s east side. 

“There’s been endless  little campfires in the tents and endless fights and pepper spray every  day,” Portuondo said. “It’s too many gangs and too close for all the…  street people to gather to be calm.”

Claudette Abraham described the tent city a  different way — as a refuge after being evicted from supportive housing  run by a non-profit housing provider.

“There’s over 100 of us that know each  other and help each other, like if somebody’s in trouble, if someone  needs extra blankets,” she said. “I do some cooking at the camp and  everyone looks forward to my bannock.”

Dubbed “Camp Kennedy  Trudeau,” after Vancouver’s mayor and the prime minister, the tent city  at Strathcona Park, about two kilometres from the Downtown Eastside, has  now been in place for four months and is home to 200 people, according  to the City of Vancouver.

Supporters say the camp is needed to provide a safe place for homeless people who would be in more danger living on their own.

But critics say the camp has become too  large, and organizers are failing to keep residents safe. In addition to  the ongoing violence, the camp will have to continue to deal with the  overdose crisis and COVID-19 as winter arrives.

While the city has earmarked $30 million to buy or lease hotels and single-room occupancies to house people who are homeless, and the federal government has promised another $51 million, it could take months for those options to be in place. 

Meanwhile, there is no immediate plan to  create smaller alternative tent city sites with more services, or to try  other options like creating a tiny home village.

The main spokespeople for the camp are  Chrissy Brett and Fiona York, who also provided support to a previous  camp at Oppenheimer Park that lasted for two years. 

They’re joined by nearly 200 volunteers who  help with everything from sourcing food and water, to doing laundry, to  being present at the camp’s central hub where a symbolic sacred fire  burns. 

Through GoFundMe fundraisers, organizers  have raised nearly $40,000 for medical supplies, to do residents’  laundry and to purchase a shower trailer.

As COVID-19 led to visitor restrictions at  SROs and the closure of some drop-in spaces, homelessness rose across  the city. Brett and York say tent cities are needed for those who’d be  in more danger living by themselves.

But at both the Oppenheimer and Strathcona  camps, there have been disturbing crimes perpetrated against camp  residents, including a killing, a horrific sexual assault, multiple stabbings and physical assaults. 

On Sept. 23, Carl Sinclair was seriously assaulted and left lying on the ground in Strathcona Park for 12 hours before someone called 911. His leg has since been amputated as a result of the attack.

On Oct. 16, a man was found with serious stab wounds at Raymur Avenue and Venables Street near the park; police said they  believed he had been stabbed in his tent, and it was eight hours before  anyone called for help.

On Oct. 17, a Strathcona neighbourhood  resident who has been one of the tent city’s most vocal critics was hit  on the head with a pipe near her home after walking past the park. Katie  Lewis, the vice-president of the Strathcona Residents’ Association, was  left with a concussion and 13 stitches. She told the Vancouver Sun she believed she was targeted. 

But speaking to The Tyee on  Oct. 20, Lewis said she was unsure if that was the case. “I know that  someone followed me home, but it could have been anyone from the  neighbourhood,” she said.

Asked about the violent incidents at the  park, spokesperson York said similar incidents happen in the Downtown  Eastside all the time but don’t receive the same kind of scrutiny. She  called on the city to provide water, showers and other amenities: right  now, the park bathrooms that campers rely on are closed at dusk, and  getting enough water is also a challenge.

But critics say the ongoing violence shows that things are not OK at the tent city.

“Some of these sorts of things can happen  on the street from time to time, but they’re not concentrated like  this,” said Karen Ward, a Downtown Eastside resident and community  advocate who has been involved in setting up several previous tent  cities. Ward also works with the City of Vancouver as a drug policy  advisor.

“Somebody’s got eyes all the time,” Ward  said, describing how violent incidents are tracked in the Downtown  Eastside. “If it’s like, ‘Oh, no one saw that happen,’ then either no  one’s taking any responsibility at all, or they want you to be hurt.”

Camp leaders say they have a good  relationship with members of the Strathcona Residents’ Association when  they meet with them. But publicly, that relationship has soured.

Speaking to city council on Oct. 8, Lewis  said she was skeptical about several GoFundMe campaigns camp organizers  have set up to pay for laundry, a shower trailer and medical supplies.  Lewis accused camp organizers of profiting from poverty.

“Where is this money going? I have a guess,  and let me tell you there is no shower trailer sitting there,” Lewis  said. “There is no laundry.”

York said camp organizers are raising money  for a shower trailer that costs $25,000. The trailer is not at the site  yet because they haven’t raised all the money required to buy it, York  said. (A GoFundMe for the shower trailer had raised $17,363 by this week.)

The fund for laundry, which has raised $10,770 so far, is so that volunteers can collect and wash laundry from  tent city residents every week. Another $11,990 has been raised for a  “health and wellness” fund, exceeding its $5,000 goal, according to GoFundMe page.

York said the money raised for the health  and wellness fund has been spent equipping a medic tent with harm  reduction supplies and basic first aid items like Band-Aids, gauze and  disinfectant. 

Another GoFundMe fundraiser begun in March raised $35,000 to help the Downtown Eastside respond to COVID-19. York said around  half of that funding has gone to a food security and community kitchen  program in the Downtown Eastside and has also funded the distribution of  hygiene and sanitation supplies.

York said camp organizers are accountable  to donors and have been tracking donations through a spreadsheet. But  Ward said that’s not good enough.

“There’s no accountability. Are they a non-profit? Do they submit annual financial reports, anything like that?” Ward asked.

Nicole Luongo is one of the volunteers who  support the camp, doing jobs like patrolling for overdoses. Luongo has  experienced both homelessness and addiction in the Downtown Eastside and  said the violence that happens at the camp is no worse than what  happens regularly in that neighbourhood.

The only real long-term solutions for the violence are reducing poverty and legalizing drugs, Luongo said.

“Living in poverty isn’t safe, right? So  for the average person, no, it’s not safe. And for someone who is  acutely traumatized, which many of the residents are, it’s also not  safe, but it’s probably more safe than trying to survive alone,” Luongo  said.

The city prefers the option of offering  supportive housing units to camp residents. But many tent city residents  haven’t had good experiences living at supportive housing buildings run  by non-profit providers, Luongo said, and have found a stronger sense  of community and control over their own lives at the tent city.

Luongo said some residents would be open to  moving to another site, such as Crab Park on the waterfront near  Gastown. But an alternate site would have to be run by residents, not  the city or a housing provider, she said.

“I know the idea of a sanctioned encampment  had been tossed around, and I think the problem with that is going to  be the same problem we see in supported housing, where folks who have  built alliances — whether that be through a gang or just their own  day-to-day life — are separated,” Luongo said.

“And there’s very little thought that’s gone into who would live best with whom.”

But Portuondo said the existing camp rules aren’t preventing violent attacks.

“This thing is secured by citizens, and if  they say, ‘Hey you can’t come back in,’ the guy’s like ‘Yeah, I’m gonna  fucking kill you tonight, I’m going to fucking knock you out,’” he said.

“There’s no cops protecting, there’s no  government that says, ‘Yeah we’re going to regulate who comes in and out  of here at least so the citizens trying to help don’t get threatened.’  They get threatened all the time.”

Ward was involved in organizing a tent city  in a vacant lot at 58 W. Hastings St. in 2016 that lasted around six  months. She said there weren’t the same problems with violence because  the site was smaller and because it was fenced with just one access  point, meaning organizers could control who could come in.

Organizers also covered the fence with  tarps, so no one could take photos of people who live on the street and  have little privacy, Ward said. 

Meanwhile, tent cities located on large  open sites at Oppenheimer Park and Strathcona Park have no way to  control the number of people living there or who goes in or out.

Ward said she’s frustrated by what appeared to be an inability of both the camp leadership and the city to plan for the future.

“What are your solutions?” Ward demanded. “The solution appears to be, live indefinitely in the park.”



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Synthetic drug labs dismantled at three Richmond locations

Large drug labs dismantled

Search warrants were performed at three Richmond locations involving suspected synthetic drug production on Wednesday afternoon.

Police said the warrants were part of an eight-month targeted investigation that is still ongoing.

Sgt. Gene Hsieh with the Richmond Organized Crime Unit, said police presence will be remaining at the scenes for some time.

“These types of investigations pose a significant danger to our officers and to our community as a whole,” said Hsieh.

“Some of the chemicals are highly unstable, and it will take some time for us to render these sites safe before continuing our investigation.”

While information on the exact locations of the suspected drug labs are not being released, witnesses said a SWAT-like vehicle and an ambulance were spotted at Maple Road, between Railway Avenue and No. 2 Road, around 2 p.m. on Oct. 28.

A similar scene was also present at Comstock Road.

Richmond RCMP confirmed in an email that the BC RCMP Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement and Response (CLEAR) team and the Richmond RCMP Organized Crime Unit were at the affected areas.

“Richmond RCMP wants to assure the public every measure has been taken to ensure the safety of the residents in the surrounding areas,” said Cpl. Adriana Peralta, spokesperson for the Richmond RCMP.

Affected areas have been blocked off for “investigational and safety reasons” and the public is asked to cooperate with officer directions in these areas at this time.

More information on the investigation to come.



Many new COVID-19 cases in B.C. transmitted over Thanksgiving

Virus spread at Thanksgiving

Dr. Bonnie Henry is urging British Columbians to keep gatherings small, or forgo them all together, after Thanksgiving dinners from earlier this month led to many of the new COVID-19 cases the province is now seeing.

Another 234 cases new cases of COVID-19 were announced Thursday, bringing the number of active cases to 2,344, the highest it has ever been in B.C.

“Halloween is coming this weekend, we have Diwali, we have Remembrance Day and other celebrations in the coming weeks,” she said.

“It is a time as well of cooler weather and increased in coughs and cold season. As well, more people are spending time indoors ... Many of the new cases we have today are directly linked to gatherings in our homes and elsewhere and are now resulting in community transmission of COVID-19 across the province.”

Over the Halloween weekend, Dr. Henry urged British Columbians to keep their groups small, avoid Halloween parties and maintain physical distance out on the streets when trick-or-treating. She also pointed to her new public health order that limits house guests to a maximum of six.

While the bulk of B.C.'s new COVID-19 cases have been coming from the Fraser Health region, Dr. Henry noted that cases are being transmitted to the Okanagan from out-of-town visitors.

“Somebody may come from the Lower Mainland and visit somebody in Kelowna, this is one of the scenarios that's happened up there,” she said. “People in Kelowna unwittingly become exposed, become ill, and by the time that it's recognized there's been an exposure event in their work place, which might be a school or a long-term care home. That is how it's being transmitted.”

Kelowna's École de l’Anse-au-sable is the only school in B.C. where an outbreak has been declared, and 16 cases have been identified in the school. As a result, the school has opted to shut down entirely until next week. Earlier, Dr. Henry said the first case at the school was contracted from someone visiting from out of town.

“From what we know in Kelowna, it is people who come in from other places, or who've traveled, or who've met family members or who had close contacts with somebody who's had this disease and brought it back and it's spread in a limited way within their community, with the people they've had close contacts with,” Dr. Henry said.

“And that's why the orders that we're putting in place are the same across the province.”



B.C. had 234 new cases of COVID-19, one death, in past 24 hours

234 new cases, 1 death

Active cases of COVID-19 once again reached unprecedented levels in British Columbia, as 234 new cases of the virus were identified in the past 24 hours, seven of which came from the Interior. 

The new cases bring the total positive tests in B.C. to 14,109, and active cases to 2,344. An additional 5,716 people are self-isolating under active monitoring after coming into contact with COVID-positive people. There are 89 active cases in the Interior.

Province-wide, 86 people are hospitalized, 24 of whom are being treated in ICU. After a COVID-related death in the Interior Health region this week, no one is currently hospitalized in the region. 

A woman in her 80s died from the virus in the Fraser Health region in the past 24 hours. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the woman contracted the virus after attending a small birthday party with her family, attended by less than 10 people. The majority of the guests at the small family gathering contracted the virus. 

Dr. Henry noted that many of the new cases the province is seeing are a direct result of transmission at social gatherings. She said her new public health order limiting house guests to six means there should be no Halloween parties this weekend. 

Additional outbreaks at four long-term care homes were declared in the past 24 hours, bringing the total outbreaks at long-term care homes to 24, while a single outbreak remains at an acute-care facility. 



Investors defrauded of $600,000, securities commission alleges

Investors defrauded of $600k

The British Columbia Securities Commission (BCSC) is alleging that two North Vancouver people and one West Vancouver resident defrauded two investors of $600,000.

The commission said John Sand and Jolyon Charles Christopher Gulston of West Vancouver and Karol Achs of North Vancouver told the investors that there were orders to purchase zinc-air fuel cell batteries and that their funds would be used to build a facility to produce the batteries.

However, the commission said, there were no such orders. It alleges Sand, Gulston and Achs used some $430,000 of the funds for other purposes, including cash withdrawals, credit card payments and payments to themselves as well as others.

“By doing so, the BCSC alleges that they committed fraud under the Securities Act,” the commission said.

The BCSC also alleges that Gulston made false or misleading statements to two other potential investors including that there were orders for the batteries; there were enough orders for several years of battery production; that battery production would begin, or was expected to begin, within a couple of months; and there was already a profitable assembly plant for the batteries in Washington State, which was being duplicated in Vancouver.

The allegations have not been proven.

The commission will schedule a hearing date in January 2021.



Loneliness and loss: The final days of two BC seniors isolated by COVID

Seniors' last days in isolation

In an average year, more than 7,000 residents in long-term care die.

In an average year, their loved ones get a chance to hold their hands or brush their hair, to talk to them or just be with them during their last months and weeks.

This has not been an average year.

COVID-19 has taken the lives of many seniors at B.C. care homes since March, but it has also robbed many others of some of their last moments with family and friends.

In Part 1 of a two-part series on the pandemic’s impact on seniors’ last days in long-term care homes, here are the stories of two such families in Burnaby.

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‘Not this way’

The last time Maria Banath saw her 91-year-old mother alive, Banath was swathed in a surgical gown, face shield, gloves and mask.

Her mother had been infected with COVID-19 at the New Vista Care Home, but that’s not what killed her, according to Banath.

Anna Patano, a longtime North Burnaby resident who had moved to Canada from Italy in 1964, had stopped eating on Aug. 15 and begun refusing all fluids starting Aug. 26, before she finally died on Sept. 13, her daughter said.

Patano’s contact with loved ones during her last few months was cut off for long periods at a time because of lockdowns related to two coronavirus outbreaks at her care home.

COVID-19 had plagued New Vista since a staff member there tested positive for the deadly virus in April.

That initial outbreak was declared over on June 8, but the home was hit by a second outbreak when another staff member tested positive on Aug. 8.

In all, 12 deaths at New Vista have been linked to the outbreaks, one death associated with the first outbreak and 11 with the second, according to the Fraser Health Authority.

Banath said her mother had spent 75 days in total lockdown – 52 days during the first outbreak and 23 days during the second – before she died.

‘A really good place’

Despite her age, Banath said her mother was “full of life” with “lots of spirit in her” before the outbreaks hit the centre.

She took some time to settle in, but New Vista was “a really good place” for Patano, Banath said, since dementia-related behavioural issues made it impossible for her to care for her mother on her own.

“Before COVID, I was there every day, faithfully, because I did her care,” Banath said. “I was there all the time, every day, not a day missing.”

That ended abruptly for 52 days when the care home banned all visitors on April 30 in response to the first outbreak.

Banath’s only contact with her mother during that time was limited to phone calls and one weekly FaceTime call arranged by staff at the home.

New Vista told the Glacier Media in May it had purchased “a whole bunch of iPads” and that staff was facilitating FaceTime calls between residents and their loved ones during the lockdown.

But only two iPads have been made available to about 236 residents for FaceTime calls, according to emails exchanged between Banath at the care home.

New Vista purchased 12 iPads, according to the emails, but there is no Wi-Fi in the building, and data was purchased for only two of the devices.

Banath’s first FaceTime call with her mother on May 8 was “not much of a visit,” she said. Patano was “very groggy,” and staff had to move on to other residents. 

When the first lockdown finally ended on June 22, Banath was allowed to visit her for an hour-and-a-half every second day wearing full PPE.

“In good weather after supper I was able to take her out in the garden area within the building as she loved outdoors,” Banath said.

But that reprieve was short-lived.

‘She was totally out of it’

Less than two months later, all visits were banned again when a second outbreak hit.

Patano would be dead before it was over, after she had stopped eating for nearly a month, according to Banath.

She said her mother didn’t want to take the antipsychotic drug loxapine, and, when she refused it, staff put it in her food and drink.

“I think that’s part of it,” Banath said, “and then not seeing a familiar face around didn’t help.”

Patano said her mother, who was in a unit for residents with behavioural issues, was supposed to be given loxapine “as needed,” but neither Patano nor Banath liked the effects of the drug.

“It knocked her out for three days,” Banath said. “When she did wake up, she had no energy. She was totally out of it.”

After seeing those effects, Banath said she had asked New Vista to call her instead of administering the drug when her mother was agitated.

Antipsychotic drugs like loxapine are used to treat behavioural and psychological symptoms in patients with dementia, but their overuse in long-term care facilities has long been a concern, according B.C.’s seniors advocate, Isobel Mackenzie.

She said the province had succeeded in bringing down the use of antipsychotics at care homes over the last five years, but those numbers surged when COVID-19 hit.

“In the last six months, we’ve almost given up the gains of the last five years,” she said. “This is not a trend we want to see.”

By the time Banath was allowed to see her mother again during the second outbreak at New Vista, the visits were considered “palliative,” she said.

Because Patano was COVID-positive, she was in isolation, and her daughter had to make her half-hour-a-day visits in full PPE until Patano’s body finally gave up 13 days later.

“Mom eventually would have passed, yes, and so will I, but not this way,” Banath said. “Not this way. It should have never happened this way.”

Glacier Media contacted New Vista for this story. New Vista Society CEO Darin Froese declined to be interviewed or provide a comment.

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‘I had no idea how he was doing’

When Robert Pitman died on May 26, he wasn’t alone. His son was in the room with him, and his daughter, Sandy Jones, was in another room nearby. But his two months of experience with the pandemic were likely characterized by loneliness and confusion, having been unable to see or speak to his family for well over a month as his health deteriorated.

Before the pandemic, Jones says she would visit her father five times a week.

“I really felt badly for anybody who didn’t have that ability to have a loved one come in and check in with them more than once a week or once a month,” Jones says. “I was the eyes and ears for my dad. I was there often enough to see when things went awry.”

When his room was messy, for instance, she often stepped up to tidy it, she says, and she noticed twice when his watch was misplaced.

After the pandemic struck, however, Jones didn’t get to see her father, a resident of the George Derby Centre, for well over a month, nor did she get to speak to him on the phone.

“He had dementia and couldn’t quite figure out how to place the phone, and it would slide from his ear, and he’d sort of not realize it, that kind of thing,” Jones says.

Although the centre was facilitating FaceTime calls between families and residents, that service was advertised on Facebook and on its website – two sites Jones says she rarely visits. She called regularly and got brief updates from staff, but otherwise she didn’t see her father until May.

“I had no idea how he was doing, how his health was progressing,” she says.

A people person

When she describes Pitman, Jones tells of his love of people, his smile and the jokes he would tell to see that grin reflected back at him.

But with the pandemic came new safety protocols, and in care homes, masks are now mandatory for staff.

“I was just trying to imagine the fact that he’s sitting there at George Derby seeing only eyes. My dad was very much a people person,” Jones says. “He couldn’t see a smile behind a mask, even though, perhaps, they were treating him lovely.”

Jones believes the sudden isolation played a role in Pitman’s turn for the worse. The downward spiral was visible by the time she was finally able to see her father on a FaceTime call – he was thin from refusing to eat, confused and uncharacteristically angry.

“My dad was always a happy person,” she says. “He was very upset, and I was upset to see him in that state.”

Outbreak protocol

Families became particularly concerned when an outbreak struck the care centre in August – ultimately, seven people contracted the virus, including three residents and four staff, and one resident died.

During the outbreak, window visits were ruled out by the care centre when in-person visits were banned. According to executive director Ava Turner, the window visit ban was because family members tend to try to open the windows.

“If you come around here sometimes, you’ll see families trying to get their heads into the windows, into the room,” Turner says. “So unless I’m out there, I have security all the way around, that is particularly what happened. I don’t know if family members have COVID out there or they don’t.”

Even more concerning for some family members was the care home putting on hold the staff-facilitated phone or video calls between residents and their family members. Turner is quick to note the facility implemented the calls before anyone asked for the service, but when the outbreak struck, they were faced with staffing issues.

“Absolutely, it was all hands on deck to make sure that the service happens in each resident’s room, and that the residents who needed to be supported with feeding, that someone would be there supporting them with feeding,” Turner says. “That meant the team who was supporting the calls, I needed to utilize them more effectively and efficiently, and that meant they needed to support the residents who needed to be fed.”

‘That’s how it ended’

After seeing on their FaceTime call how thin Pitman had gotten, Jones says she asked to see his weight measurements, which only confirmed the significant weight loss.

“I was very upset at that, and I requested a visit. I insisted that they allow me to get in to see dad so that I could coax him to eat,” she says.

But when she was allowed to visit Pitman, she says he only gagged when food was brought close to his mouth. That was her last 15 minutes with her father until he was identified as “actively dying,” Jones says. And Pitman, himself, seemed to have sensed that the end was near.

“The only thing that he said sort of legibly was ‘Take care of yourself, Sandra,’” Jones says of their lunch meeting.

Jones and her brother were able to visit Pitman in the hours before his death, but even then, she says, she was expected to wear a mask.

“I simply took my mask off so he would know me, because I knew these were his final hours,” she says. “When dad passed, (my brother) was actually with dad in the room, and I was outside, along with my sister-in-law and the grandchildren. So that’s how it ended for my dad.”

A widespread issue

The families of Anna Patano and Robert Pitman are not alone. The isolation of seniors in long-term care during the COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns provincewide. Next week, the seniors advocate will release the results of a survey launched at the end of August to probe the impact of visitor restrictions on seniors in care and their loved ones.

For Part 2 of our series next week, we will talk to the seniors advocate and to an SFU professor who says the “silver lining” of COVID may be that it has shone a light on problems in senior care that existed before the pandemic.



Victim identified in three-year-old Squamish homicide case

Victim ID'd, three years later

Police have identified a 2017 Squamish homicide victim as the late Davis Wolfgang Hawke, 38, of the United States.

“Conclusively establishing Davis Hawke as our murdered victim is clearly a significant development in the case after these past three years, however, it has raised more questions particularly with respect to motive,” says Sgt. Frank Jang of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team in a news release on Thursday.

“This new information opens some new avenues of investigation for us and hopefully will lead us closer to solving this mystery.”

The confirmation of Hawke’s identity has happened about three years after his remains were found on June 14, 2017.

At the time, RCMP found a burned vehicle on the Cheekye Forest Service Road. Human remains were found inside the vehicle, a 2000 red GMC Yukon XL, and the autopsy later confirmed the victim died as a result of a gunshot wound.

Investigators were told that the victim went by the name "Jesse James" and was well known in the Squamish area as an avid rock climber.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the IHIT Information Line at 1-877-551-IHIT (4448), or by email at [email protected]

To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers by phone at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).



Vancouver police seeking victims after man posing as Uber driver sexually assaults woman

Fake Uber sex assault

Vancouver Police are searching for more victims after a man disguised as an Uber driver allegedly confined and sexually assaulted a woman in August.

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, from Langley, was charged on Oct. 22 with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident on Aug. 26.

Batth allegedly forcibly confined the victim before sexually assaulting her near Oak Street and King Edward Avenue. It is believed he posed as the victim's Uber driver using his white 2020 Land Rover.

“We believe that Batth may have targeted other victims” says Const. Tania Visintin. “Investigators are expanding their focus to look at crimes that occurred outside of Vancouver and are urging any other victims to please come forward.”

Batth was convicted in 2017 for sexually assaulting a victim and police say it was similar to the current investigation. 

Batth remains in custody until his next appearance in court. 

Anyone with information is asked to call investigators at 604-717-0601 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.



Woman tries to dine and dash, but falls through kitchen ceiling

Dine & dasher falls from sky

A woman trying to dine and dash in Burnaby was caught on video surveillance as she tried escaping from a restaurant, but ended up falling through the ceiling instead.

The failed attempt was posted on Twitter on Thursday by Burnaby Mounties who say the woman tried skipping out on paying her bill but was unsuccessful. 

"She crawled above the kitchen ceiling from the washroom. Luckily she wasn't hurt when she fell through the ceiling tiles and landed right in front of our Burnaby frontline officers," says the tweet.

Burnaby Mounties poked fun at the situation by using the hashtags #Gravity and #Foundyou.



Two men in screaming match on SkyTrain about COVID-19 pandemic

COVID argument on train

A heated argument between a man wearing a mask and one without on Vancouver's SkyTrain has been caught on camera.

The video shows the two men screaming in each others faces before the pair sits down across from each other, CTV News Vancouver reports.

The maskless man then says to another rider, "I'll pay you $100 to punch him out."

It is not clear when the incident took place, but the video was posted to YouTube on Wednesday. 

The two-minute video shows the two men screaming expletives at each other while other riders get involved. 

One of the men can be heard screaming, "Let's go then. I'll kick his a** outside" as the SkyTrain arrives at the Joyce-Collingwood stop.

The maskless man can be heard screaming the pandemic is fake. "Wake up, have you seen the funeral homes? You see dead bodies? It's so f***ing fake," he says.

It's not the first video that has surfaced regarding fights on transit during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Last week, a maskless woman was caught on video spitting on another bus passenger. And last month, two men got into a fight after one had offered the other a mask because he wasn't wearing one.

On Monday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she expects everyone wear masks in all public places as its part of peoples "mutual responsibilities to protect ourselves and to protect each other."

-with files from CTV News Vancouver



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